The tornado siren bangs on the stale, end-of-summer humidity. The sky is so empty the blast echoes against it and empties my ears of any other sound for those three solid minutes before the sky and everything below it ring with silence.

My daddy taught me the word shame with the back of his hand. I turned my head toward the slap—not away, couldn’t even do that right. I thought I could protect my cheek. At least the stinging stopped when I pressed it against my shoulder. Daddy would make that move with his own cheek and shoulder right before he hit me, but I learned to see that as a signal. I got up and out of my body and dove right into the sky, or at least the corner of the room where I could scout for the end of danger.

Shame got to feeling more like a bear hug than that burning flash across my face and the only thing that sparked it was emotion. Mine or anyone else’s. My mom didn’t want me, my daddy did and that was that. She let me live, gave him to me. As my daddy always asked me, what’s there to feel?

The breeze against the hairs of my cheeks. That quick flash of pain in my eyeballs all the way to the backs of them when I look at something bright like the sky in the middle of the day. Too much food stretching against my stomach obscuring my hip points. My Achilles tendons trying to shove the edges of my shoes out of their way when I rose up on my toes to get closer to the rarely bright sky. I had everything I needed: food, warmth, protection. Recreation.

What could there possibly be to feel, son?

The tornado siren test drones around me. It buzzes on my skin and the pins and needles of my spine snapping straight kick on all my insides. I’m surrounded inside and out by panic, but it’s only body deep. What’s there to feel, son?

It was the eighth unusual day, where the sky is brighter than the sun, since I started counting when I moved here in sixth grade. I’m 15 now. The first one was how I found out the sirens were a test: I was staring into a bright, blue hole above the whole world marveling at how unchanging, how blank, how nonreactive it all was when these crazy horns started whooping up a storm all around me. I’d just moved here to Vermont, where my daddy lived, so I didn’t know how often these bright-blue-hole days or the sirens happened. But I wouldn’t have remembered my first blinding, blank day if it weren’t for that hot pain that hacked through my every vein as I stood out in the kickball field in between my daddy’s house and the building I finished elementary school in wondering if I was going to get swept back to nowhere-ass Kansas.

It was kind of the same feeling I got when my daddy raised his hand in my presence. When he’d do so—and when he’d actually lower it across my face—was less predictable than the sirens. Same with the days sharp with light, which got slightly less awesome when I realized they had something in common with my daddy’s abuse. Yeah, I knew all along it was abuse; what’s there to feel, son?

The tornado siren test now reminds me that it is trash day. Nothing like lugging your own waste out of your house and holding your breath until it was safely slung into the rancid-ass dumpster to make you really rethink your choices.

My daddy never said out loud that I had to do chores to live here. I felt like shit if I didn’t, though. On the way to the dumpster with a sick-sweet smelling bag in each hand, I got distracted. It was just a plane, Alaska airlines Eskimo seemed like on the tail, and I didn’t know why it grabbed my attention at first. I didn’t know that it was flying at what had to be an impossible angle until I had another plane to compare it to. The second plane looked like every other plane I’d tracked across the sky, except for the Southwest orange on the wing tips. And that it was coming up from below the Eskimo plane way too fast.

They’re probably miles apart in actuality, I told my brain. Nothing to feel.

I didn’t have time to repeat the thought to myself, though what was coming seemed like it took forever: the second plane rose like a vengeful god was yanking it straight up by a string. The first plane was flying at such a whacko angle because it was trying to clear the second plane’s way. It did not, and the fire that rivaled the sun lasted for a second on a clock in eternity.

I walked halfway home flinching and ducking under that unpredictable sky. When I reached my school, dark with summer break, I realized I was clearly hallucinating. No way airplanes actually crash like that.

I was nostril-deep in self-psychoanalysis when I got home. I was a self-taught shrink: my daddy was a psychoanalyst whose couch was in his off-limits-to-me office at home, but I’d snuck in a lot, at first just to see if I could and then to start reading his books. My daddy wasn’t there, but some explosive movie on the TV in the living room smashed through the whole house. My hands and lips went numb and I had to push my back against a wall to get my lungs to relax enough to allow me to breathe.

The crash between Eskimo and Orange Tips, slightly different than how it actually was in real life, was all over the news: “fatal fluke,” “investigative crews leaving no stone unturned,” “no survivors or witnesses,” “watch for falling debris for the next few days.”

The tornado siren does not suit me. Practice a warning enough times and it no longer spikes your heart rate or sends cold-ass ripples raging down your back.

What would suit me? Another question my daddy spat at me often, thinking he already knew the answer was nothing. Well, it’s definitely not practice anymore. Maybe a real tornado back to the sun-gold wheat field surrounding the town I grew up in, almost as empty as the sky always is over there?

The scheduled weekly warning. The hot backhands. The depressing unfamiliarity of a totally new place, the kind that kicks dully at your chest. Nothing suiting me. Being the “no one” that witnessed a legit plane crash live. Being told on repeat your mama don’t want you, son. At least I finally know what there is to feel, sorry-ass excuse for a daddy.